Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Patience, my son

I've spent two of my last four Saturday's in the emergency room at Forsyth Medical Center.

And it has nothing to do with me, or my a-fib, or my high cholesterol.

But it has everything to do with my latest diagnosis, father-in-law disorder.

I'm sure for those of you caring for elderly parents, this is a familiar tale.

About a month ago, dad (I call him "dad" for the lack of a better — or more respectful — word, since he is 81 years old after all) got the notion in his head that he needed to drive to the post office at 9 p.m. to mail off what he considered to be time sensitive material to Publisher's Clearing House. He had been informed by PCH that he's one of the finalists for their annual bazillion dollar sweepstakes that he just knows he's going to win. Never mind that he's one of 100 million other "finalists."

Anyway, he apparently fell off the curb as he returned to his car. The police found him on the ground and called us at home. He did not want to be taken to the local hospital by ambulance, so my wife and I ended up taking him to Forsyth, where we spent the next three hours or so. Brain scans were taken, and as I like to say, revealed that there was nothing there.

Because he's on the blood thinner Coumadin, he bruises easily. Consequently, a day later, his entire head was black and blue. He looked like he'd taken a Nolan Ryan fastball on the forehead. Weeks later, he's still partially black and blue which, if you get paranoid enough as his caregiver, makes you feel as though all eyes are on you condemning you as his obvious elder abuser.

On Friday, we had a similar episode. Dad fell at home, on carpeting, while getting out of bed to adjust the thermostat. My wife found him on the floor when she went to check on him. Once again, we made the trek to Forsyth, where we spent the next five hours with examinations and waiting on results.

This time, it was determined that his blood pressure drops when he rises from a sitting or recumbent  position, which may result in some lightheadedness and so could induce a fall. He was also dehydrated and an infusion of fluids seemed to change his entire persona for the good. One thing we learned is that most adults over 40 are not nearly hydrated enough.

So we took him to the beach on Sunday, which was part of our original plans. Things went relatively well, although he requires constant attention. We hurried back home by Tuesday. Part of that was because dad thought the PCH sweepstakes patrol was going to be at his house that day — until he found out the winners aren't informed of their new wealth until the end of the month.

Our quandary, of course, is trying to decide whether or not to put him in assisted living. He's still of an independent mind, and doctors have not given us any real reason to put him in a home as of yet. Furthermore, there is the question of how do you pay for something like this? Costs can run from $5,000 to $7,000 a month, or more. It's a god-awful dilemma.

So for the time being, we just carry on. Sigh. Maybe dad will win the sweepstakes after all. How's that for irony: win a sweepstakes to pay for your assisted living. I'm usually not one for such frivolity as PCH, but here I am holding my breath...

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